Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Celebrate Easter Without Sugar

Sunbeams Backlighting Cross

Easter is coming! On Sunday March 31 our family will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While the Easter Bunny doesn’t make an appearance during our celebration (we prefer to shoot any giant rodents found sneaking into the house) we do incorporate things like Easter baskets, dyed eggs and getting all dressed up to have breakfast with our friends and family at church. Since we’re focused on avoiding processed food and artificial dyes, I spent some time looking for more natural ways to fill Owen’s basket this year. Here are some celebration ideas your family can use as well.

{P.S. I hope to make Owen’s basket as local as possible. If I have time, I’ll post pictures and sources for Owen’s local-centric Easter basket before the big day!}

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Artificial dye is poison. Did you know that some artificial dyes are banned from inclusion in our cosmetics and medicines, yet food manufacturers are permitted to include them in our food? Many of these same substances are banned in other countries. Why? Because they have been linked to health issues like cancer and hyperactivity in children. For more info on the hazards of artificial dyes (and ideas for natural food dyes) click here. For more on how to dye your Easter eggs naturally, check out the video below.


Cake (Pancake?) Filled Eggs

Another fun surprise you could put together would be baking cupcakes inside real egg shells. I love this idea! Owen and I enjoyed doing this project together. We tried a little variation – first we dyed the eggs, then we baked the cupcakes inside them. We learned that natural dyes don’t withstand the heat of baking quite as beautifully as artificial ones. (That’s why this post doesn’t feature any of our ultimately brownish-greenish cupcake eggs!) I’m going to try filling some eggs with pancakes to eat on Easter morning… we’ll see how that turns out.

We also tried a slight variation of the recipe included in the tutorial you see below. Here’s our own twist on the recipe created by the Cupcake Project.

What you’ll need:

  • 9 large eggs (Only one will get used in the cake.  The rest are just used for the shells.)
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/3 C real maple syrup
  • 1/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp homemade vanilla extract
  • 1/4 C vanilla or plain yogurt

We mixed the dry and wet ingredients separately and then mixed them together with an electric mixer. Also, if you have trouble getting the egg to come out of the shell, try poking a teeny-tiny hole at the other end and blowing it out (Owen loved this… despite thinking it was disgusting). Also, my skills with a piping bag are about as great as Kanye West’s public speaking abilities, so I opted to use a medicine syringe (the kind you use for giving a toddler pain medicine) instead – worked beautifully!

Easter Cupcakes 11

{Photo Credit}

Non-Candy Easter Basket Prizes

A chocolate bunny and jelly beans are usually staple candies in an Easter basket. Here are some basket ideas that will make your kids “hoppy” without the sugar buzz-and-crash routine following typical sweets.

Sidewalk Chalk

Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest


Homemade Bubbles

Sealed container + cute label + bubble wand (check the party store) = tons of fun for little ones! What if it’s cold outside? Are you kidding – have you ever experienced the fun of frozen bubbles? Regardless of what the weather’s doing, this one is a total win!


All-Natural, Chocolate-Covered Sunflower Seeds

As yummy as they are colorful!

Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest


Homemade Treats

What kid wouldn’t like to get a stack of cookies as a gift? Try our own minimally processed (no processed sugar) cookies or perhaps some homemade granola.


Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest



Some plants are super easy to grow. Owen has his own garden (4 x 8 raised bed) and loves sharing cucumbers with his friends during the summer. Give your little one some cucumber, watermelon or sunflower seeds and initiate them into the wonder of spring.


Dinosaur Egg Cucumbers… What kid wouldn’t want to go dinosaur egg hunting in his own backyard??



Stuffed Animals

Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest


Turn your child’s drawing (no matter how wild!) into a stuffed animal. So cool!


Jump Rope

This jump rope (found on is personalized.

Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest


Sports Balls

Warmer weather is coming, so give your little one something to play with outdoors. A frisbee or a kites are great too!

Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest



Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest



These crayons are all natural. You can find more natural crayons on in many shapes, sizes and colors.

Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest


Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest


Craft Supplies

Source: via Arcadia on Pinterest


All Natural Candy

Ok. It’s candy, I know. But if you absolutely can’t manage to go without giving your child sweets for Easter, why not buy allergy-sensitive, all-natural treats? Here’s a source.


Resurrection Cookies

We’ve never made resurrection cookies before, but it’s a tradition I’ve heard about from family and friends. The recipe and baking process are used as an illustration for the story of Jesus sacrifice and resurrection. Pretty straight-forward, family-friendly stuff. We may give it a whirl this year to see if there’s a way to make it with less (or no!) sugar. For a pictures and instructions, click on the image below.

{Photo Credit}

{Photo Credit}

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Dye from Natural Causes

Straining natural blue dye through coffee filter

I heart food (and my belly shows it!). I hate food dye (and my baking shows it!).

Well, I don’t hate food dye – I hate artificial food dye. My distaste for Red 40 and other unnatural food colorings began when our son started having major issues with hyperactivity, attention deficit and unexplainable mood swings. His school was convinced he had A.D.D., needed to see a doctor and should be on medication. We were convinced that he was an energetic BOY with a very creative imagination… but agreed that he did have trouble following directions, often for no explainable reason because he knew what he should be doing and all signs pointed to the fact that he wanted to obey. While I concede that medication is a good choice in some situations, we much prefer to look for natural answers to issues before jumping for pills.

So we started doing some research… it didn’t take long before we discovered the link between artificial food dye/coloring and health problems in children, especially hyperactivity. Attention deficit and extreme mood swings were also in the list of symptoms.

According to “the three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens [cancer causing substances], says CSPI. Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply.”

We did an experiment – no artificial dye for the little guy for as long as possible and then we’d see what happened. What did we see? Several things! First, his ability to follow directions, pay attention and control himself was markedly improved after we cut artificial dye in his diet. Second, when he did eat artificial dye – even a relatively small amount – we could see a spike in problem behaviors. And lastly, we saw that artificial dyes are (expressly and sometimes covertly) in a significant number of things that simply don’t need coloring! (Marshmallows have blue dye, some ‘fresh’ tomatoes have red dye on them, meat sometimes has red dye to make it look fresh, etc.)

Angry Grocery Shopping

We quickly discovered how difficult it is to feed kids without giving them artificial color. I had recently become a label reader because of my concern and curiosity about what’s in the ‘food’ we eat. Now I do it religiously. Grocery shopping takes longer. It drives home the point for me of how important it is to produce the food my family eats. And to be honest, grocery shopping has evolved into a task that makes me angry. I love capitalism like most people love the Beatles (seriously) but I just can’t fathom how people working for corporations who put these chemical-ridden, processed health hazards with pictures of dinosaurs and princesses onto grocery shelves can sleep at night! It makes me mad that I have to scour the label to make sure I’m not poisoning my family – and that even after reading I can’t be 100% sure I know what’s in there. (Have you ever read the ingredients list for lunch meat? Yeah, I said ‘list’, as in five or six things other than just ‘turkey’.) Grrr…

Happy Frosting

Cupcake with red raspberry dyed frosting

This pink frosting is made using dye from red raspberries.

So there. Every two weeks when I go to the grocery store I get a little hot under the collar. But let’s move on to something a little more sunshiney-puppies-kittens-balloons-and-smiles-ish, shall we? I like to cook and bake so I haven’t minded that whenever Owen is invited to a birthday party, I have to bake some dye-free cupcakes for him to take along. (He doesn’t mind either – he’d rather eat a separate cake than deal with the affects of artificial dye on his behavior!) So far I’ve had a chance to experiment with different homemade cake mixes and frostings. (We especially like this frosting recipe – I substituted almond extract for the vanilla and it was delicious! We’ve had it with and without cocoa.) Once we used the chocolate frosting, otherwise it has been plain old white. Owen doesn’t seem to mind, but I think we would both enjoy a little color.

Owen was invited to a birthday party today, so today I whipped up some butter cream frosting along with natural food dye – red, purple, blue, and orange! Hooray!

Wouldn’t you like to try baking with natural food dyes? Not only are you avoiding chemical health risks, you’re also adding a teeny bit of nutritional value to what would otherwise be a delicious lump of creamy sugar! Scroll down for recipes and my thoughts on how they taste.

How to Store Natural Food Dye

But one quick note before we get to the recipes: Those tiny squeeze bottles of artificial dye sitting among your baking supplies don’t spoil or go bad. {Selah} Natural food dye won’t last a decade like the fake stuff. You’ll need to store it in the fridge in a sealed container (mason jar with a tightly closed lid?). I can’t say for sure how long it will last, but one article I read said it will go bad after two weeks. Signs that the coloring has gone bad are an odd odor or mold spores. If you want to refresh the coloring after one week has gone by, try bringing it to a boil for 30 seconds which would kill any mold spores but will likely deteriorate the color. Consider this your excuse to bake more sweets so you can use it all up in the two week window!

Another idea: Freeze the coloring in ice cube trays for on-demand, small quantities of color at a later time!

Pale purple forsting on cupcake

This pale purple frosting is made using dye from a red cabbage.

Natural Food Dye Recipes and Reviews

When using natural food dyes, substitute the dye for liquids used in your recipe. I’m currently working on developing some concentrated dye that can be used more like conventional dye and that is preserved with ascorbic acid or vodka for long-keeping. I’ll update you when I have those experiments figured out!

Natural Dye Recipe

2 cups chopped fruit or vegetables

1 cup of water (approximate)

* Add chopped fruit/vegetables to small saucepan

* Simmer on medium heat until desired color and consistency is reached

* Once fruit/vegetable is soft, mash with fork or potato masher to expel more color

* Strain mixture through coffee filter or cheesecloth into a glass container

* Clean saucepan; return strained juice to saucepan and boil down to further concentrate color

* Allow dye to cool before using


Taste: There’s definitely a raspberry taste to the frosting when using this dye. I’ve read that beets are the way to go when you want red dye with very minimal taste. However at the time of writing this post I decided to use only things I had on hand, including frozen raspberries. Perhaps I’ll go dig up some beets for a follow-up post.


Taste: No cabbage taste but there is a cabbage smell to the dye all by itself


* Follow same instructions but add small amounts of baking soda to the dye as it cools to obtain the desired color.

Taste: No cabbage taste but there is a cabbage smell to the dye all by itself


Taste: No carrot taste


Haven’t had a chance to try this yet!

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